I took a job as a Fire lookout in the middle of the woods, I found a strange set of rules to follow - Chap 5
I wake up early. I’m only on a few hours sleep, but it’ll do. In fact, I’m too driven to even notice. I pack a light backpack; some food, water, flashlight, radio, my map, and my machete. I also bring the camera, to see if Allison can confirm if the man in the photos is actually Harvey. The sunlight is peering over the outstretched trees, I’ve never really taken in the beauty of the sunrise, I’m usually either asleep or scared shitless. But it was beautiful. I decide not to tell Allison I’m coming. Whilst I do feel a degree of trust, I don’t want to warn her of my whereabouts, giving her a chance to change or alter anything, just in case. I lace up my shoes, and start the trek to Allison’s tower. It should only take about 3 hours. The route was relatively direct, and judging from the map, I wouldn’t have too many steep climbs or anything.
I noticed a stark difference as I ventured out of my zone and into Allison’s. Each lookout has a zone; they are to maintain the paths and deal with any issues that may arise within their zone. However, as I made the transition into Allison’s, I noticed that her paths were not well maintained. To be honest, they weren’t maintained at all. Overgrown trees, bushes, and flora made me thankful I brought my machete as I hacked away and continued along the barely visible paths. It was tiring work, but I wanted to make sure the paths were clear enough to run through, should I suddenly need.
I was just losing motivation and starting to get hungry when I reached her tower. It had taken about 5 hours due to the work I had to put in clearing the paths, but I’m here now. The tower is exactly like mine, the same layout with the hut on top of the four stilts, huddled within a small opening in the woods. Her outhouse was on the opposite side, but her food bank was in identical position to mine, just left of the tower’s base. However, there is one massive difference I immediately notice. What the fuck? The remains of a massive firepit, like that of a bonfire, around 50 feet from her tower. Surrounded by stones, it looks like one that someone has gotten good use out of. Considering our job is to make sure there are no fires at all in the woods, that’s a bit fucking strange, isn’t it?
I make my way up the tower. I’m relatively quiet as I do so; partly because I don’t want her thinking I’m the smiling lady, running up her stairs, but mostly because I’m nervous. Upon reaching the top, I can already see the tower has nobody in it. In fact, it looks like it never has anyone in it. The hut has old nests along the top of it, old spider webs along the banisters, and dust literally everywhere. I go to open the door. It’s locked. That’s weird, my tower doesn’t even have a lock. I peer through the glass, squinting to see through the thick layer of dust on the inside of the window.
It’s dark, darker than it should be in there. I can make out the main radio on a table, next to a stack of what looks like newspapers and files. The bed, messy, unkept. There’s a bag peeking out from under the bed, I’m guessing it’s her rucksack. From what I can see, there are no books, no decks of cards, nothing to keep her occupied during the day. How does she stay sane?
I decide to radio her. I’ve not trekked all this way to not meet her. I pick up my radio.
“Allison, come in”.
“Hey,” a fast reply, “what’s up Oscar?”
“Hey, just wondering”, I say, as I decide to investigate a bit before letting her know I’m here, “where abouts are you?”
“I’m in my tower, why?”, she replies.
Uh, what the fuck? I’m certain that this is the right tower. This IS her tower. I’m looking into it, and nobody’s there. She’s lying to me.
“Ah, it’s nothing”, I lie, trying to mask my trembling voice behind one of confidence, “just some campers on the edge of my zone. I’ll deal with them”.
No reply. Did she buy it? Does she believe me? Reply, Allison. I need to know if you believe me or not.
“Cool, nice one Oscar. Thanks for that!”
Okay, thank fuck. She believes me, I think. I decide to head down the tower, and hide behind a tree nearby. I wanted to scope this out. Maybe she was just heading back to the tower, so said she was there already. It could just be a misunderstanding, so I’m going to scope the situation out and see what happens.
It’s been over 30 minutes. There’s not been any sign of her, not any sign of anything. In fact, this area is completely quiet. Completely dead. Where is the rustle of animals, the sound of distant hikers? It is so quiet. Too quiet. During the wait, I had told myself that if she doesn’t come back soon, I was going to break into her tower. I have no idea if that’s illegal or not, it’s technically the property of my employer right? I’m guessing it is illegal, but I need to investigate. And I need to do it soon. Before it gets dark.
I hit the door with the butt of my machete, just above the doorknob. The loud bang breaks the eerie silence, followed by the creak of the door as it swings open, freezing me for a second as I wait for something to happen. Nothing. I head inside. Dust hits me, and I hold myself back from coughing. I need to be quiet, and I need to be fast. The inside of the hut is cold, weirdly colder than the temperature outside. I walk over to the stacks of newspapers and files. The headline for the first newspaper I see gives me chills.
Sister Hikers Missing
I skim the article, it’s these woods. Two sisters, missing. Was this Allison’s sister? She only told me she had one sister missing. Was she the other one? This doesn’t make sense. I flick through the rest of the newspapers, most just reiterating that two sisters were still missing. Until:
One Sister Found After Being Missing For Three Weeks
The article stated that one of the sisters had been found alive and well, but the other was still missing. It says that they were separated after getting lost in the woods. Allison hadn’t mentioned that she had also gotten lost, if this was about her. Did she consider that too personal? Or did she lie? I turn my attention to the files.
Inside, one piece of paper. It’s headlined ‘OSCAR’. What the fuck? Under it, information about me. Information I had shared with her about my divorce and why I took the job, my age, what I look like. Maybe she kept these just so she wouldn’t forget? An odd way of trying to be friendly? Wait, how does she know that? We’ve never met. How does she know what I look like? Something fucking weird is going on here. I turn my attention to the bag under the bed.
It’s a big rucksack, dark blue. I pull it out and open it up. Inside, clothes. They look like male clothes; t-shirts, hiking pants, a rain jacket. I dig deeper. I find a hammer, and then a wrench. Nothing too out of the ordinary there. The next item I take out, a pair of sunglasses.
Engrained on the side: RS.
Initials? Definitely not Allison’s, but somebody’s. I reach my hand into the bottom of the bag, and feel a small metallic object. I lift it out, and it’s a pocket knife. It’s a very nice knife, looks like something that someone has personally designed. It’s got a golden outline, and laced through it is a mix of wavy silver and black designs. There’s something engrained on this too, in very small letters:
To My Love, To You, Harvey.
What the fuck? Why does she have Harvey’s knife? Is this his stuff? Is there where his stuff went after he disappeared?
I’m not taking anything; she’ll know I was here. But I’m getting out of here, I don’t feel safe.
As I stand to leave, I hear a familiar voice behind me. Allison’s voice.
“You know, all she wants is to make you smile”.